The Real Peaky Blinders


Henry Fowler, Ernest Bayles and Stephen McHickie

 Allegedly named after the weapon they used in fights: the peaks of their flat caps into which had been sewn safety razors and which were slashed across the foreheads of their opponents, causing blood to pour down into their eyes and blind them. The Peaky Blinders were a criminal gang in 1890’s Birmingham and have inspired the the hit BBC 2 drama of the same name featuring Cillian Murphy as head of the gang , the fictuous Thomas Shelby.

Where Stephen Knight has used the inspirational stories from his own father’s uncles tales – a bona-fide member of the gang. Naturally things have been altered for the series.

But I for one am fascinated , I want to know who were the real life Blinders ? Are their any similarities to the gripping drama I watch every Thursday night ? And what exactly were their crimes ?

As I’ve said , the real life peaky s were in 1890 as opposed to the 1920s tale we see on screen . In fact, it’s even been discovered that razor blades had only just been invented and as such were a luxury item so maybe the story of their names roots is a romantic glamourisation of the truth as you often find in true crime as these were working class men, certainly not rich and able to purchase luxuries.

(Though personally I do like this embellishment – it makes it seem gritty, grimy, manipulative and cunning – all the words I associate with street gangs)


Henry Fowler

The gang  ruled the industrialised areas of Bordesley and Small Heath through the 1880s, 1890s and early 1900s.
All had the same distinctive look of donkey fringes, silk scarfs, bell-bottom trousers, steel-capped boots and a cap worn on the side of the head and we’re considered to be foul mouthed drunken men , heavily involved in violence and petty crime.


Ernest Hayes


Stephen McNickal

In fact , the Peaky Blinders were the fore runners of a street gang who did in fact run the streets of Birmingham in the post war years of the 1920s headed by none other than Billy Kimber –  The Birmingham Gang , made up from members of another previous gang the Brummagem Boys.


The real life gangster

As fans of the series will remember, Billy Kimber made an appearance in series 1 as a rival to Thomas Shelby.

With Peaky Blinders roots firmly in history , it’s fascinating to learn about the inspiration behind the stories, the real life violence that was reported and the use of real areas, businesses, people and characters that make up the show.

Series 3 is now showing on BBC 2 on Thursday nights at 9pm – you can follow the series with me under the  must watch tv area of the blog – I’d love to hear your thoughts on what Tommy and Co are up to now !

See Also Peaky Blinders – 3.1
Peaky Blinders Must Watch TV


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